Poverty Reduction in Egypt 
As of 2019, Egypt is the most populous country in North Africa and the Middle East with a population of more than 99 million. For all intents and purposes, it would appear at first glance that Egypt should not have many challenges regarding poverty by virtue of it being a middle-income country. However, if one takes a closer look, it is obvious that the nation of Egypt has numerous development challenges that have plagued the country for a long while. Poverty in the country is significant, yet there are poverty reduction efforts in Egypt to combat it.

Poverty in Egypt

The poverty rate in Egypt has consistently been high and steadily rising, it has been a long-standing problem for the country. According to un.org, over the course of 2015 to 2018, income poverty saw an increase to 32.5% from 27.8%. In total, this time period saw more than 32 million people fall below the national income poverty line. From 1999 to 2018, there has been a steady increase in the income poverty rate consistently every year. Then, there is the issue of extreme poverty which has risen as well and in 2018 it went up to 6.2% which would mean that the people in this category live with food insecurity and suffer to meet even the most basic of needs.

To put things into perspective, this has been a long-standing problem going back decades for Egypt. In the last two decades, the poverty rate has stubbornly hovered around 20% or higher. The percentage of people who are ‘near poor’ is also high, estimated at 20% which when added up brings the percentage of total poor to 42.6%. Poverty is particularly prevalent in Egypt’s rural areas, with more than 75% of Egypt’s poor located there. This has made attempts at poverty reduction challenging. 

However, one glimmer of hope comes from rural Upper Egypt. According to El Laithy, every region of Egypt from 2015 to 2018 saw an increase in the percentage of those living below the poverty line with the exception of rural Upper Egypt. The region saw a decrease of 4.8, from 56.7 to 51.9. While that region does have the highest percentage of poor Egyptians it still shows progress. Additionally, it is also home to 40% of Egypt’s poor population which means it is a key focus and priority for assistance programs in Egypt. This shows there is an opportunity to build upon that progress. 

Poverty Reduction Strategies 

According to sesric.org, there are four main pillars to the strategy of reducing poverty in Egypt:

  • Economic Development: Increase current earnings
  • Human Development: Increase future earnings
  • Social Safety Nets: Protect vulnerable groups
  • Provision of basic services

This list showcases in broad terms the general strategy for poverty reduction in Egypt. To get into specifics one of the ways in which to help those living in poverty in Egypt is through cash transfers. These cash transfers help the most vulnerable in society such as widows, orphans, the elderly or the disabled for example. Also, this strategy does not carry much cost since it would only constitute 0.1% of GDP and additionally, it only represents a small portion of total subsidies. In fact, Egypt recognizes the benefits of cash transfers and has actually expanded them to cover the employable poor through the New Social Pension Law.

Food Subsidies

Next, there are food subsidies, and they represent a huge part of Egypt’s social safety net. Egypt’s government gives out ration cards and has expanded the coverage of those cards in the wake of rising food prices and poor living standards. Over the time period between 2007 and 2010, there has been an increase in beneficiaries to 63 million from 38.5 million. These ration cards have proven to be a tremendous help to many and have helped numerous vulnerable households. In fact, between 2007 and 2008 they helped to lift 9% of Egyptians out of poverty.

The Social Fund for Development

Another way Egypt has worked to reduce poverty is through the Social Fund for Development (SFD). Its mandate is as follows: 

  • Reduce poverty by supporting community-level initiatives
  • Increase employment opportunities
  • Encourage small enterprise development

As recently as June 29, 2022, Egypt received a $500 million loan to Egypt to help bolster efforts and programs to provide vulnerable households access to bread, strengthen their resilience to food crises and implement additional reforms to both food and security policies. The World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors provided this loan. The loan was part of the Emergency Food Security and Resilience Support Project. In addition to the list above, the project will help with the procurement of imported wheat, reduce waste and losses in the wheat supply chain and strengthen Egypt for future crises all of which serve to help more than 31 million Egyptians who live below the poverty line.


So, in conclusion, Egypt has deep and long-standing problems dealing with poverty and its consistent increase over the course of decades, especially in the rural regions of the country. There are a number of strategies and efforts to combat the problem, and they are not perfect. For example, the food subsidy system, while lifting more than 9% of the population out of poverty, is costly, and there can be improvements particularly when it comes to system leakages. Also, the amount of benefit from cash transfers is low. However, these are steps and progress in the right direction towards poverty reduction in Egypt, and they show what is possible to further the goal of reducing poverty in Egypt. The World Bank’s loan is one way in which the world is lending its weight to Egypt’s efforts at poverty reduction.

Gary Williams
Photo: Flickr

Mental Health in Chad
The Republic of Chad takes a unique perspective on mental health and psychological disorders. Many in the country view these conditions as curses, and their consequences can be profound, impacting not only the afflicted individuals but also their families and even entire communities.

In some cases, these beliefs lead to physical interventions in an attempt to address the disorder or, in unfortunate instances, to hide the affected person from view due to the family’s distress over their lack of improvement. For example, others chained a 35-year-old woman to a log for two years due to her mental health troubles after contracting meningitis.

Chad faces significant economic challenges, being one of the poorest nations globally, with approximately 86% of its population living in poverty. The country has also experienced multiple civil wars since gaining independence from France in 1960. As a result, prioritizing a modern and compassionate approach to mental health has not been at the forefront of its agenda.

Despite these challenges, there are efforts within Chad to address mental health issues with greater sensitivity and understanding. Below is an overview of the state of mental health in Chad and initiatives that aim to improve it.

Mental Health Among Refugees

In areas like the Lake Chad province, where communities often have to abandon their belongings and flee due to attacks from Boko Haram or other groups, risks of mental health disorders are larger when combined with the economic exhaustion of the community and what casualties may have been caused by the attacks. Anxiety syndrome and depression are the most common physiological disorders in these communities.

In an attempt to help refugees who have fled to Chad, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), also known as Doctors Without Borders, provides psychologists who work in the Lake Chad region. These psychologists have noted that one in four refugees seeking support show signs of depression. Other common reactions include sleep disorders, trauma-related anxiety and severe emotional reactions.

The Goundi Project

In spite of the numerous obstacles in Chad’s way, the country seems to be working toward a more accurate understanding of mental health struggles and what needs to happen to benefit those suffering from such issues.

In 1990, a group of Jesuits founded an integrated health program in Goundi, located in the south of Chad. This health program included a hospital and eight health care centers situated in a 30-kilometer radius, aimed to treat as many people as possible for the lowest price.

The Goundi Project has also been a help to Chad. Established in 2013, The Goundi Project aims to create a gasification system that uses agricultural residual biomass, such as corn cob waste, to generate electricity for the small community. A major goal of The Goundi Project is to get a local hospital and water supply up and running again. The overall goal is to create a gasifier that can be made and operated using materials found in Goundi so the community can operate it on its own.

This project benefits the locals of Goundi in a multitude of ways. They get a firm grasp on technology that they can adapt to their specific needs and situations and change the way that money flows. Before, money would go from the non-governmental organizations to the petroleum companies, but in using their own agriculture to power the gasifier, the money can go straight to Goundi, which would make for a better environment and economy.

The Goundi Project also includes collaboration between those designing the gasifier and the residents of Goundi. By including the local members of the community in corn cob picking and operating and maintaining the gasifier, the community of Goundi is able to make a noticeable difference in its way of life. Furthermore, the Physically Disabled Association of Goundi receives preference when it comes to helping out, in order to make the excluded group feel just as useful.

What UNICEF is Accomplishing

Additionally, in a 2022 study, the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) found that 32,000 children and caregivers were accessing the mental health and psychosocial support that UNICEF provided to them. UNICEF also plans to find solutions to gender-based violence against women, which includes making them more active members of their communities and instilling in them ways to prevent and respond to any risks of gender-based violence (GBV).

The results of that response will go toward prioritizing mental health services, protecting children on a community-wide basis and supporting interventions that focus on children who have escaped from armed groups and are survivors of GBV.

About Cooperazione Internazionale’s Efforts

Additionally, Cooperazione Internazionale (COOPI), with funding from the U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance Office has started projects designed to help the displaced refugee communities who may be struggling with mental health issues without knowing how to overcome them.

COOPI has created awareness-raising sessions that aim to showcase the mental health issues addressing Chad’s population. It is trying to remove the stigma against seeing psychological disorders as curses and it discusses ways services it offers in the community can help with psychological disorders.

Due to the positive word of mouth in response to these activities and sessions, the rate of cases that these health care centers are reporting is rising. September 2018 and September 2019 saw 217 psychological consultations and 571 psychiatric cases from girls, boys, women and men.

Looking Ahead

If this kind of progress continues, Chad will no longer be a country that chains its mentally ill community members to logs and abandons them to the marabou, a traditional healer, when communities no longer know what to do for them. Chad’s lack of legislation on mental health in Chad and inability to provide specialized assistance may not be as detrimental as it once was.

Instead, the Republic of Chad will become a more understanding and intelligent community that knows the risks of mental health and psychological disorders, but will also know how to combat them and make their way of life that much better.

– Dylan Hubbard
Photo: Flickr

Burna BoyRenowned Nigerian Afrobeats artist Burna Boy is actively contributing to the betterment of his homeland, Nigeria. In celebration of his 2021 Grammy win for Best Global Music Album with “Twice as Tall,” he generously provided food packages to 300 families in Rivers State, Nigeria.

Burna Boy is committed to addressing Nigeria’s pressing challenges, including extreme poverty and issues of police brutality. He actively supports charitable endeavors, such as the Global Citizen’s Demand Equity campaign based in the United States (U.S.). Additionally, he has established the Project Protect fund, which focuses on assisting protesters wrongfully detained in cases of police brutality. Through these efforts, Burna Boy is making a significant impact on his country and advocating for positive change.

In reference to his charity work, Burna Boy also released his very own 16-minute documentary in December 2022 called “Whiskey” about the pollution and poverty affecting his Nigerian hometown of Port Harcourt that features interviews with locals about how crude oil waste has polluted the city’s water and its negative effects on the health of the local population and is in collaboration with the Nigerian charity Reach Every Available Communal Household (R.E.A.C.H.), which will donate all of its proceeds to help provide the community itself with food, clean water, medication and other necessities in general.

Burna Boy’s Comments on His Documentary

At a screening of the documentary “Whiskey” in December 2022, Burna Boy commented that the run-down way that the Nigerian area of Port Harcourt looks in the film is the same type of environment that people from where he is from live in every day of the year. Additionally, he also stated that he hopes the accompanying song he made for the film, titled “Whiskey,” which centers on the area’s problems with poverty and pollution, helps bring forth change and awareness relating to the area itself and other places around the world that are suffering from extreme poverty in general, such as other parts of Africa and the Caribbean.

Burna Boy’s Thoughts on Police Brutality in Nigeria

In response to the surge in incidents of police brutality in Nigeria in October 2020, which reignited calls for the disbandment of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) of the Nigerian police force, Burna Boy conveyed his stance on the matter via Twitter. He asserted that police brutality has been a persistent issue in Nigeria, resulting in harm and loss of life among its citizens. Burna Boy emphasized his commitment to leveraging his platform to advocate for his fellow countrymen, striving to bring about meaningful progress and change within his homeland.

What’s Next?

Burna Boy is still standing up for his country of Nigeria by combating its pollution, immense poverty and police brutality to lead the country down a path of progress.

– Deon Roberts
Photo: Flickr

Local Journalism Fights PovertyJournalism has historically played a vital role in combatting corruption, amplifying marginalized voices, educating the public and fostering community cohesion. However, the advent of technology has led to a significant decline in local journalism, despite its critical importance. Local journalism combats poverty in a unique yet indispensable manner, whether by giving voice to communities, addressing information gaps or exposing corruption.

Information Poverty

Though local journalism doesn’t provide much economic relief, it can provide poor communities with many other benefits to help reduce poverty. People from low-income areas do not have the financial power to spend on subscriptions or internet access and are thus less likely to vote in elections. Local journalism fights poverty via political engagement through information as communities are given access to local government policies to ensure they make informed decisions and are thus empowered.

Local journalism also raises awareness and informs people about poverty-related issues in their area, where people can then challenge and pressure leaders to resolve issues such as health care access and hunger. Communities are then equipped with the power to continuously challenge leaders with the help of local journalists.

Empowering Change and Vocalizing Communities

By equipping people in poor communities with knowledge and education through local media, journalism helps individuals use their voices to empower change and question authoritative figures. This is especially helpful for women and children who are often disregarded. They can highlight their experiences, challenges and achievements in local stories. Local journalism provides a platform for everyone to speak up about issues and advocate for change.

Local journalism fights poverty by creating a space for discussion, which can allow community members to share their ideas and solutions. It fosters a sense of togetherness and trust when people’s voices are heard. Local journalism offers inspiration, where women or children see their experiences portrayed in local news. When people aren’t afraid to speak, it prevents the rise of inequality and corruption.

Accountability and Contesting Corruption

Corruption’s impact on poverty can be likened to a spreading ailment. While corruption itself doesn’t directly cause poverty, it does have significant repercussions on economic and governance factors, acting as an intermediary that exacerbates poverty.

Corruption erodes governments’ institutional capacity to provide quality public services, leading to a decline in public infrastructure quality. Consequently, public resources get diverted for private gains.

Thankfully, local journalism plays a pivotal role in combating corruption, particularly in low-income communities. Local journalism serves as a watchdog, sounding the alarm when something appears amiss. Local journalists investigate both corporate and governmental wrongdoings, shedding light on these issues for the public to see and act upon.

According to a paper by University of Illinois researchers Nikki Usher and Sanghoon Kim-Leffingwell, “When local journalism declines in a geographically specific area, we expect to see decreases in federal prosecutions for public corruption in that area.” The importance of local journalism in corruption is unmatched. People in power are constantly monitored by watchdogs and investigative journalists, and whistleblowers can safely reveal information that is illegal or unsafe.

Challenges and Opportunities

In the age of digital media, local journalism has been on a steady decline. Many local media struggle financially as the transition from print to digital has made advertising and marketing more favorable digitally, as advertisements can be specifically targeted to a specific audience demographic. Attracting advertising revenues in the highly competitive online environment has proven equally difficult.

Local journalism requires funding for staff, equipment and the like. It is seen as more of an investment rather than a financial burden due to its many benefits. However, for poor communities, this financial cost may not warrant its investment.

Local journalism has the opportunity to change the political scene by giving the people in poor communities more power. This is achieved through monitoring powerful local figures to avoid corruption, educating and informing the public of poverty-related issues in the area and via empowerment, by giving people a right to speak and discuss.

The digital era of journalism has undeniably facilitated the spread of misinformation, but it has also made news more accessible than ever. Implementing appropriate safeguards can ensure that even underserved communities have greater access to reliable journalism in today’s interconnected world.

– Lewis Butcher
Photo: Pexels

The Forest Peoples Program (FPP) is a nonprofit based in the United Kingdom (U.K.) and the Netherlands. The organization focuses on aiding indigenous and forest communities globally. The charity works with these communities to support their livelihoods, which rely on the forest.

According to the Forest Peoples Program, indigenous communities protect more than half of the land but only formally own 10%. The FPP helps the 300 million people living in forests secure their rights. 

Five Facts about the Forest Peoples Program

  1. It aids indigenous communities with self-determination. The United Nations (U.N.) notes that one of its purposes is the “principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples.” Self-determination is the freedom of choice without external input. Regarding indigenous communities, self-determination means they should control their development. This idea includes economic and cultural decisions. In addition, the population should have the right to self-governance concerning local matters.
  2. The Forest Peoples Program works with these communities on a legislative level. The organization works to implement policies in the interest of indigenous people. For example, the FPP issued a 2022 annual report that noted the growth of its Strategic Legal Response Centre. This program allowed indigenous individuals to access legal action to support their land rights.
  3. It strives toward gender equality within indigenous communities. Within its humanitarian work, the Forest Peoples Program aims to create an inclusive environment for indigenous women. This idea includes working with organizations that specifically aid women and generating Gender Workshops. The FPP worked with the Sengwer people in 2016, an indigenous community in western Kenya. The organization advocated against illegal evictions that have been on the rise since 2014. The organization specifically focused on female experiences during these evictions. The report revealed that the evictions impacted women and children more than men.
  4. It supports indigenous-led education. According to the Australian government, in 2018, only 49% of indigenous students recorded more than 90% attendance. This gap reveals how underrepresented indigenous cultures and voices are within educational institutions. However, between 2020 and 2021, the Forest Peoples Program co-founded the Global Network on Indigenous-led Education (ILED). The network grew under a range of organizations that share the goal of supporting holistic education. These organizations, such as the FPP, aimed to combat the marginalization of indigenous people within traditional education structures.
  5. The organization has been reaching milestones since the 1990s. The FPP has been operating for more than 30 years. Since the 1990s, the organization has supported countless developments for indigenous rights. The year 1992 saw the creation of the International Alliance of Indigenous and Tribal Peoples of the Tropical Forests. This group was the first of its kind, allowing indigenous people to use their voices in “international fora and meetings.”

A Look Ahead

More recently, in 2015, the FPP supported the development of the first autonomous indigenous government. The government was in the Wampis nation, located in Peru. As a result, the government integrated 1.3 million hectares of ancestral territory to strengthen the region politically. 

The Forest Peoples Program continues to aid indigenous communities facing poverty. Providing access to legal action gives these communities more stability as they obtain land rights. In addition, the FPP assists indigenous gender equality as women are more dependent on access to land and resources. The organization strengthens indigenous-led education and legislation to preserve indigenous traditions and voices. 

Overall, indigenous representation is crucial in tackling poverty, as the FPP protects indigenous livelihoods and underrepresented communities. 

Bethany Brown

Photo: Flickr

Native HawaiiansDeadly wildfires have ravaged Maui since August 8, 2023, resulting in the highest death toll in U.S. history, with 114 confirmed casualties. These devastating events are expected to significantly impact impoverished native Hawaiians, given Maui’s poverty rate of approximately 11%. Fortunately, numerous resources are available to aid the affected citizens of Maui during this crisis.


Hawaii Foodbank is a nonprofit organization that provides food assistance to residents of Hawaii. Its work includes partnering with “Feeding America,” launching pop-up food distributions for COVID-19 support and offering a yearly Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program. In light of the devastating wildfires, Hawaii Foodbank is working with the Maui Foodbank to assist communities impacted by the wildfires. There is an option on its official website to electronically donate money to help provide food assistance. All the donations go to the Maui Food Bank. The Maui Food Bank has been providing food relief to the citizens of Maui County through community partnerships.

“Of those served, 40% are children and youth,” according to the nonprofit’s website. “Working with more than 100 distribution partners and programs, the Food Bank distributes safe and nutritious food to individuals, families, kids, the working poor, seniors on fixed incomes, the homeless and anyone who is at risk of going hungry. This includes people in need living in the rural communities of Hana, Molokai and Lanai.”

Business Relief Fund

Not only did the wildfires destroy countless homes, it also destroyed businesses. Hawaii is a state that relies heavily on tourism for profit. Due to the recent wildfires, however, tourism in the state has dropped. CBS News reports that some business owners on the island fear that the decline of tourists will slow down the island’s recovery process. 

A study done by Gibson Nene, Ph.D., and Melaku Abegaz, Ph.D., revealed that in rural areas, small businesses can improve poverty rates. According to an article by the University of Minnesota, “Entrepreneurial activity by “micro-enterprises” with fewer than 20 workers was associated with lower poverty rates across rural counties. The benefits of these businesses come in several forms, including new job opportunities and sources of income for residents of the community, as well as creating “social capital” that could end up attracting people from outside the community to move to the area and spur further economic growth.”

This information shows that impoverished native Hawaiians benefit from the local businesses on the island. Due to the wildfires, however, these businesses cannot operate as usual. To assist with this, The Hawaii Chamber of Commerce Foundation/Chamber of Commerce Hawaii has created a GoFundMe to raise money to help impacted businesses.

Celebrity Donors

Since news about the wildfires broke, many celebrities and public figures have been donating to different organizations. These donations will help the island get back on its feet and hopefully assist impoverished native Hawaiians affected by the wildfires.

Oprah Winfrey, who has lived on the island for around 15 years, has been visiting local shelters to assist with getting victims the necessities they needed. She also stated that she would make a major donation once a plan to rebuild has been created.

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who has purchased property on the island, and Lauren Sanchez are creating a Maui Fund and dedicating $100 million to assist in the rebuilding process.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan have donated an undisclosed amount to the Hawaii Community Foundation’s Maui Strong Fund. The couple also own a home in Kauai.

– Brianna Leonard
Photo: Flickr

Lebanon's Economy
Lebanon’s economy experienced a remarkable upswing this summer, thanks to the revival of tourism in the country. The tourism sector has emerged and has always been a pivotal player, breathing new life into the nation’s financial prospects and increasing the potential for poverty reduction in Lebanon.

Increased Tourism in Lebanon

Efforts to implement security measures in the region have cultivated a modest sense of confidence among travelers, drawing a heightened influx of international visitors to Lebanon. Expert estimates and statements from tourism authorities substantiate the sector’s expansion, resulting in amplified tourism receipts and economic advantages.

Local businesses, encompassing hotels, restaurants and transportation services, flourish by attending to the increasing count of tourists exploring Lebanon’s rich cultural heritage, historical landmarks and breathtaking natural landscapes. This influx of visitors has also resulted in job creation, further contributing to economic growth and poverty reduction among locals. This is significant considering a report by Human Rights Watch in 2022 that 36% of people in Lebanon lived in extreme poverty.

Insights from Jean Abboud, president of the Association of Travel & Tourist Agents in Lebanon, reveal that Beirut’s International Airport has witnessed a notable surge in travelers. This trend has remained consistent since the end of June, with passenger numbers averaging between 15,000 and 18,000 individuals daily. Particularly noteworthy is the peak occurring on June 25, when the airport’s terminals bustled with 20,000 passengers in a single day.

This surge in passenger traffic paints a vivid picture of Beirut reclaiming its popularity and appeal on the global travel stage. The numbers indicate a renewed preference for Beirut as a favored entry point, reigniting the city’s role as a hub of international connections. By facilitating the smooth movement of people across borders, Beirut’s airport takes on a pivotal role in revitalizing the local tourism and travel sector. This sector holds immense significance for the nation’s economy and cultural exchanges.

How Tourism is Boosting Lebanon’s Economic State

In 2022, Walid Nassar, serving as the minister of tourism in a caretaker capacity, presented data revealing that Lebanon welcomed more than 1.72 million visitors during the previous summer, contributing a significant $5 billion through their collective expenditures. At a conference held in Dubai in May, Nassar projected that the upcoming year would see an even more substantial influx of tourists, primarily during the summer season, with an estimated minimum of 2.2 million visitors. Nassar’s estimations suggest this surge in visitor numbers will play a key role in generating revenue of at least $9 billion for the nation, thereby contributing to poverty reduction in the country.

Tourism’s resurgence has not only bolstered Lebanon’s economy but also extended economic opportunities to various regions, reducing disparities and promoting inclusivity. By attracting visitors to lesser-known areas, local communities benefit from the increased economic activity. To maintain the momentum, it is crucial to prioritize sustainable practices and the preservation of Lebanon’s cultural heritage. This ensures the long-term growth and stability of the tourism industry.

Looking Ahead

Lebanon’s economy experienced a much-needed boost, thanks to the revival of tourism during the summer months. The increased number of visitors has had a positive impact on various sectors, leading to economic growth and job creation. However, sustaining this growth requires continued investments in tourism infrastructure and the promotion of sustainable practices. As Lebanon embraces this summer revival, it has the potential to create a more stable and prosperous future for its citizens and communities, further solidifying its position as a favored destination on the global tourism map.

– Kassem Choukini
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Mental Health in the Developing World
“All countries can be thought of as developing countries in the context of mental health,” says a 2018 report by the Lancet Commission on Global Mental Health — a sobering diagnosis for the worldwide distribution of mental health resources. Only 20% of people suffering from depression in the developed world receive proper treatment. In the developing world, this rate plummets to 4%. The world also puts a lower dollar value on recovering the years lost to those with mental illness, investing only 85 cents for each year of illness, as opposed to $144 for each year lost to physical diseases like HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis. Here are five ways to tackle the problem of mental health care in the developing world.

5 Ways To Improve Mental Health in the Developing World

  1. Empowering Nurses – The lack of psychiatrists in developing countries is severe, and the task of mental caretaking often falls on nurses who are undertrained and overworked, but a 2020 report from the Journal of Family Medicine and Disease Prevention offers a solution that works from the ground up. Training Mental Health Nurses (MHNs) to prescribe medicine and treatments with the guidance of available psychiatric staff, and encouraging nursing colleges to incorporate a mental-health curriculum that both incentivizes MHN training and develops in collaboration with other doctoral programs, has the potential to strengthen the quality of mental health care and lessen the amount of time people in developing countries must wait to get it. 
  2. Combining Economic and Psychological Assistance – There is an undeniable connection between economic hardship and poor mental health, but solely financial assistance can overlook important cultural and environmental variables for mental well-being. Dr. Leyla Ismayilova, a professor of social work at the University of Chicago, has been studying the effects of the Trickle Up program in Burkina Faso since 2017. Trickle Up was established in 1986 to lift the extremely poor out of poverty and make them “economically self-sufficient” after two years, and operates in Africa, India and Latin America. Her study indicates that economic assistance from Trickle Up combined with family counseling produces better outcomes than economic assistance alone, decreasing hunger, depression and trauma while increasing self-esteem among children. Child and family mental health is of special concern in Burkina Faso, one of the poorest nations in the world where, according to a 2012 survey, 1.25 million of its children (37.8%) are engaged in child labor, and where harsh parental discipline and domestic violence are widespread. Family counseling was able to empower children within their families, giving them a voice and elevating them beyond simple instruments of income. By encouraging families to talk through their problems while giving them an economic leg up, mothers were more inclined to protect and nurture their children rather than impose cruel corporal punishments, such as depriving them of food or forcing them to stand in uncomfortable positions. Counseling also helped curb domestic violence by reducing male resentment of women as breadwinners, allowing husbands to open up emotionally instead of internalizing their anger and frustrations. 
  3. Technological Outreach – Roughly 88 psychiatrists serve the entire nation of Kenya, leaving one for every 5 million people, most of them based only in Nairobi. However, free apps like TrustCircle, developed by the Psychiatric Disability Organization and U.S. app developers, have the potential to connect millions of Kenyans without the ability to travel with mental health specialists. The app also provides free, anonymous and clinically tested screenings for conditions like PTSD, substance abuse disorder and depression. Africa especially is a fertile testing ground for this kind of technological outreach due to its combination of very low attention to mental health care (46% of countries in Africa have no standalone mental health policies) and a burgeoning trend of digital connectivity. For instance, mobile phone ownership in Ghana increased from just 8% to 83% between 2002 and 2025. A 2022 study by The Brookings Institution showed a 9.8% decrease in mental distress and a 2.3% decrease in the likelihood of severe mental distress among low-income Ghanaians who were given mobile-calling credits during the COVID-19 pandemic, increasing their ability to make unexpected calls and decreasing their dependence on digital loans. If low-cost connectivity is enough to have a positive impact on mental health, then low-cost mental health connectivity could reap exponential benefits in the developing world.
  4. Decreasing Stigma – The social ire directed towards mental illness in the developing world prevents people not only from seeking treatment but from even disclosing that they are sick at all. A potent example comes from a 2011 study of people suffering from schizophrenia in India, where 46% of participants felt discriminated against by their community and 42% by their own families. One of the largest and most exciting efforts to combat stigma is the Indigo Partnership, which started in 2018. A partnership between several low-to-middle-income countries like China, Ethiopia and Nepal, its five-year mission is to identify stigmatizing language and behavior and develop culturally adapted ways of intervening through communities and health care providers. 
  5. Empowering Families and Communities – There are some truly inspiring examples of community mental health empowerment throughout the developing world. In Rawalpindi, Pakistan, the Family Network for Kids project uses technology to train family members and neighbors of children with developmental disorders to provide care, reaching 270 families. The African Mental Health Foundation, in partnership with Columbia University and the Canadian Government, works with traditional healers and clergy in Eastern Kenya to collect vital data on mental illness in their communities, and to direct those in need to mental health care centers. The Friendship Bench project in Zimbabwe, the result of 20 years of research in the country, has empowered 600 grandmothers since 2006 to provide talk therapy in their communities, reaching 30,000 people in just 2017 and reducing depressive symptoms to a degree recognized by the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2016. 

– John Merino
Photo: Flickr

USAID Support
Vietnam, officially known as the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, is located in Indochina, an eastern peninsula edge of Southeast Asia. Vietnam’s bordering countries consist of Cambodia, China and Laos, and is an important partner for the United States (U.S.) in terms of trade. The country is reputable for its fertile grounds and deltas, providing its population with abundant resources to grow crops. Vietnam is also one of the few countries with the highest cases of tuberculosis in the world. With the help of a national program and USAID support, Vietnam is on track to combat tuberculosis.

Tuberculosis Endemic in Vietnam 

According to the Pulitzer Center, tuberculosis is often treated successfully once diagnosed in patients; however, efforts to detect and prevent the disease in Vietnam are deficient by comparison. Reasons for poor prevention and detection can be attributed to the country’s overall economic state. Being able to effectively combat tuberculosis means having the resources to provide education about the disease, sufficient tests and medication. 

If the disease continues to reach more people and evolve, there is concern that a stronger form of the disease, MDR-TB may become more widespread. MDR-TB, or Multidrug-Resistant TB, is a type of tuberculosis that is resistant to the most potent drugs typically used to treat the disease (Isoniazid and Rifampin). MDR-TB has a higher mortality rate than normal tuberculosis. According to Vietnam’s WHO medical officer, tuberculosis is a neglected disease, even with a chunk of financing provided by The Global Fund. This is because most of the funds are directed toward HIV and malaria efforts rather than tuberculosis. 

The concern of tuberculosis is not limited to those within Vietnam but also extends to foreigners who travel from developed countries. In the West, there is an attitude about tuberculosis that points to a lack of concern since the disease doesn’t pose a major risk amongst developed nations. Therefore, unaware travelers may increase the risk of bringing more strains of tuberculosis to Vietnam. 

Vietnam’s Government and Programs

Vietnam’s National Tuberculosis Control Programme (NTP) originated in 1986 with guidelines including standard protocol treatment across the nation, tuberculosis control systems incorporated into the country’s primary health care system and diagnostic direct smear examinations. 

Further, the formation of the NTP meant communal health workers within various districts were trained and received treatment and detection supplies. As a result, around 99% of Vietnam’s communities utilized the NTP policies and regulations by the year 2000. The national program gained traction in the late 1900s and was eventually given priority amongst national health care programs, further receiving support from the Dutch government. 

Vietnam has also developed a national commission for resources which fosters collaboration amongst various sectors to end tuberculosis. Vietnam’s goal is to end tuberculosis by 2030, and in order to do so, the country is committed to strengthening its technological and scientific innovations. 

To create better access to tuberculosis care, Vietnam’s government decided to provide insured services for tuberculosis patients in all provinces of Vietnam. To achieve this, the government widened the Social Health Insurance plan to cover tuberculosis treatment and prevention. In 2022, Vietnam’s Social Health Insurance covered all expenses related to tuberculosis. 

USAID Support

USAID is providing assistance in fighting tuberculosis through Vietnam’s National Tuberculosis Program by effectively implementing diagnostic strategies of Double X, which consists of a rapid detection instrument and a chest X-ray. The rapid detection technology, Xpert MTB/RIF, has a high level of sensitivity compared to conventional sputum smears. Xpert MTB/RIF identifies the bacteria Mycobacterium tuberculosis or MTB as well as resistance to rifampicin, an antibiotic used to treat mycobacterial infections. 

Traditionally, tuberculosis detection tools involve sputum smears, a test that measures a type of bacteria, acid-fast bacilli (AFB), which causes the disease. However, traditional sputum smears lack sensitivity compared to rapid detection technology in that confirmation of tuberculosis requires at least 10-100 AFB/ml. 

Among seven provinces, one that has benefited from USAID support in combating tuberculosis is An Giang, a southern region in Vietnam. An Giang has one of the highest cases of tuberculosis, and in executing the Double X plan of action, a few districts in An Giang province have experienced higher tuberculosis detection. In 2020, patients within three districts in An Giang were tested using the innovative X-ray and detection tools of Double X, leading to more than 80% increase in the detection of tuberculosis within the province since 2019. 

In order to effectively implement Double X, the USAID Sustainable HIV and Tuberculosis Response from Technical Assistance (SHIFT) collaborated with Vietnam’s NTP to train health care professionals in health facilities, focusing on areas in Vietnam with patients, not within the NTP system such as those with respiratory symptoms, diabetes or pneumonia. 

Results from these studies and the implementation of the Double X program show the efficacy and impact these tools have. The USAID support in technology and science dedicated to early detection of tuberculosis evidently has made a difference in Vietnam’s goal to end tuberculosis by the year 2030. 

Looking Ahead  

It is evident that Vietnam’s national and governmental efforts to combat the tuberculosis endemic have resulted in innovations in detection, prevention and treatment tools. The USAID/SHIFT implementation of the Double X strategy in collaboration with the NTP has been essential in accelerating and assisting the country’s goal of ending tuberculosis by 2030. 

Bianca Roh
Photo: Flickr

African tourism reduces poverty
While seeing the beautiful wildlife and environment of Africa, tourists can also boost the economy and aid the country in its fight against poverty. Tourists can do this by simply continuing to visit the country, as it has been shown not only that African tourism reduces poverty in its Sub-Saharan countries, but also helps to build roads and schools and overall enhances the communities in the area.

Each year, millions of people visit Africa to experience both its culture and its beauty. Because of this, countries in Africa have created a thriving hotel and travel industry, creating numerous jobs and boosting the economy as a whole. Many of the more common tourist spots, like the islands Seychelles and Cape Verde, had an average of 16% of all employees in the countries working jobs directly linked to tourism, and this does not include all of the restaurants, shops, etc. that tourists frequently visit.

The Sub-Saharan districts of Africa have seen such rapid growth in their economies as a result of tourism that nonprofit organizations have been created to support this tourism. The Fair Train in Tourism South Africa organization was created to promote tourism in all of the Sub-Saharan countries but focused most specifically on South Africa. The nonprofit researches ways for tourists to sustainably visit the country and ensures that tourists practice fair purchasing, fair treatment to locals and respect the culture and environment that they are visiting. This nonprofit and the Fair Trade in Tourism organization as a whole also support the countries in various ways, like pushing for fair wages and working conditions within the tourism industry and ensuring that the businesses are run ethically and safely.

The tourism industry has become such an integral part of the economy in these Sub-Saharan regions that their governments are actively including the tourism industry in their government plans for the future. A meeting of UNCTAD, or the United Nations Conference Trade and Development, determined that 49 countries in Africa have created plans to boost the tourism industry even further.

How Has African Tourism Economically Reduced Poverty?

The main way African tourism reduces poverty is through creating jobs. The government’s plans to expand the industry will further the number of jobs that are available and increase the overall flow of money coming from foreign places into the country. This money can then be funneled into things like furthering education, building better road systems, creating cleaner water systems, etc. The jobs that the industry creates are also easy to learn and, mostly, do not require a higher education. Therefore, African tourism reduces poverty specifically among individuals who were not able to pursue their education and may otherwise be unable to find a well-paying job. Many of the people holding these jobs are also women, who make up more than 60% of employees within hotels and travel industries.

Despite the recent hit that the industry took as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the industry is expected to return to its previous success which was most recently observed in 2019. Specifically, Morocco, the most traveled country in the Sub-Saharan region of Africa, has seen a huge improvement in its economy due to the jobs that African tourism has brought in. In 2019, it was estimated that about 5% of employment was due to the tourism industry. The entirety of Sub-Saharan Africa has seen more than $30 billion as a result of the tourism industry in 2019 alone, and the numbers should only rise as they have almost continuously done over the past decade.

What Good Has Come from Tourism Thus Far?

So far, citizens in the Sub-Saharan regions of the continent have seen enhanced roads, advanced internet access and higher-quality waste disposal. Because the goal of the tourism industry is to provide a good experience for travelers so that they will return again, businesses focus on creating a comfortable environment for travelers. This comfort expands beyond the various hotels and tourist spots to also be experienced by locals.

Furthermore, because of the tourism industry and the money it brings in, the government has also built up communities and has been able to fund public organizations that help the local people. More than 700 community projects have been put in place throughout the Sub-Saharan region that have provided housing and improved both schools and medical clinics, and the effect is only continuing to spread.

– Allison Groves
Photo: Flickr